MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has created a board of inquiry that will look into a "friendly fire" in Marawi City that resulted in the death of 11 soldiers and wounded seven others.
The wounded soldiers have been evacuated to Cagayan de Oro City following the incident, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
"We are still investigating, conducting an investigation headed by the [AFP] chief of staff what really happened kung nagkaroon ba ng miscommunication or there was an error of somebody there on the ground or sa air sa parte ng pilot," Lorenzana said.
The accident occurred during the military's operations in Marawi City on Wednesday noon. The Philippine Air Force was conducting surgical airstrikes to neutralize the defensive stronghold of the Maute terror group in the city.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that one of the military's SF-260 trainer planes was successfully hitting its assigned target during its airstrike.
"However, it was unfortunate that the last ordnance round it delivered went wayward for an unknown reason and accidentally hit and caused the lives of our ground forces," Padilla said in a separate press conference.
AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año immediately ordered the creation of a board of inquiry to ensure that such incident will be avoided in the future. He will also choose the members of the board.
Padilla added that possible equipment failure caused the botched airstrike.
"We can't say yet if the pilot erred," Padilla said.
The AFP spokesperson assured the families of the fallen soldiers that the military will attend to them and provide comfort and solace to them.
"We mourn the loss of 11 of our brave harbingers of peace and wounding of seven others. While the AFP leadership commits and takes the initiative to conduct a thorough investigation on the circumstances surrounding this unwanted development, the Armed Forces will remain focused on its mission," Padilla said.
Lorenzana said that the military may have to limit the airstrikes to aircraft "that can deliver accurately their ordnance" after the incident.
"I give those decision to the ground commander, si Gen. [Rolando] Bautista at saka si Gen. [Carlito] Galvez, to determine kung kailangan pa nila ng airstrikes doon especially now that there are more troops operating on the ground and the chances of hitting our own troops is very big," the defense chief said.